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Featured Therapist Interview
Robin Yeganeh, Ph.D., is the founder of the Cognitive Behavior Therapy & Mindfulness Center in San Ramon, California, and a licensed clinical psychologist with a decade of experience treating adults, teens, and children. He obtained a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Maryland and has received training from and worked at the National Institute of Mental Health, the Maryland Center for Anxiety Disorders at the University of Maryland at College Park, the University of California San Diego, and the San Diego Veterans Affairs Healthcare System.
Dr. Yeganeh’s specialty is in scientifically guided treatments for stress and anxiety disorders. His approach to treatment emphasizes empathic understanding and action oriented skills training, using cognitive, behavioral, and acceptance based strategies to help strengthen clients’ adaptive responses to difficult emotions and events. Dr. Yeganeh’s work has been published in scientific journals, such as Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychiatric Clinics of North America, and Depression and Anxiety. He is currently a reviewer for the Journal of Anxiety Disorders and a member of the ABCT Find a Therapist Directory Committee.
Congratulations on being the ABCT Featured Therapist.
First, we would like to know a little about your practice
When did you begin your practice?
I founded the Cognitive Behavior Therapy & Mindfulness Center in San Ramon, California, in 2006 after working at the San Diego Veterans Affairs Hospital. Although I was happy using exposure therapy to treat PTSD and other anxiety disorders at the VA, I missed working with children and wanted to return to treating both adults and children with a wide variety of anxiety disorders. I contacted colleagues in the Bay Area and was encouraged to move to Northern California. Things moved quickly and I began supervising an MFT intern to run a CBT oriented couple’s therapy program. In the near future, I will be looking for well-trained behaviorally oriented child clinical post-doctoral fellows.
Do you have a specialty?
My specialty is exposure therapy and CBT for anxiety disorders. I primarily treat OCD, social phobia, panic disorder and GAD. I also incorporate mindfulness theory and training into treatment plans with many adult clients and have worked on a number of manuals that integrate mindfulness and CBT.
What are your personal strengths as a practioner?
I believe that part of my success in private practice has been my ability to clearly translate basic behavioral theory into practical therapy approaches. I am always excited when a client ties in theory to his or her personal experience with a homework assignment. I have also received feedback that I am perceived as warm, open, and able to effectively use humor in therapy, which is particularly important with regard to child work. Finally, clients respond well to the fact that I consistently incorporate homework and prospective monitoring reviews into each session. My clients also appear to appreciate action-oriented treatment, grounded by a solid theoretical rationale.
What is one method you use to promote your practice?
I have used my website, www.cbthealth.com, as a “digital business card” and a way for interested individuals to get a feel for my training and an intro to CBT and Mindfulness. As far as promotion, I joined ABCT’s Find a Therapist Directory and began giving talks to local professional associations. For example, having worked in Primary Care at the San Diego VA, I gave a talk to the San Ramon Family Physicians Association on CBT in Primary Care. There had recently been an article describing the success rates of CBT in their journal American Family Physician. I also gave talks on CBT and Mindfulness to the local county psychiatry and psychology associations. I feel it is a duty to spread awareness of data-driven therapeutic approaches, and the talks are usually fun! However, there is really no substitute for hard work in therapy, and I think that ultimately the success of a practice is most contingent upon the development of relationships with other clinicians, treatment outcomes, and word of mouth.
How important are board certifications and credentialing programs to your practice?
They haven’t been a part of my practice. I would like to attain the Academy of Cognitive Therapy certification. Although I don’t know that non-clinicians have been adequately informed about the difference between various graduate degrees, let alone certifications, credentialing may help ensure that therapists properly represent themselves.
What “tips” can you offer to colleagues just opening a practice?
Be creative, courageous, and go out and meet your neighbors. I think if you work hard and really focus on your area of expertise, word will get out. When I started, I decided that every hour that I didn’t have an appointment I would do something aimed at developing the practice. I also think developing a consultation relationship (i.e., a professional mentor) with someone who has already done what you are about to do is worth every penny you will spend. After all, in graduate school we don’t learn about federal tax ID numbers and managing a practice – but a practice cannot be successful without that kind of knowledge.
What sorts of literature do you make available in your waiting room that describes evidence-based therapy?
This is something I tend to do on a case-by-case basis in the office. I am connected to my laptop and printer in therapy and this allows me to print articles and therapy tools whenever appropriate. ABCT brochures are useful in this regard.
What self-help books do you suggest to your clients?
It really depends on the problem area. Regarding child OCD, “Talking Back to OCD: The Program That Helps Kids and Teens Say No Way – and Parents Say Way To Go.” “My Anxious Mind: A Teen’s Guide to Managing Anxiety and Panic” is an exciting new publication. For adult panic, “10 Simple Solutions to Panic” is excellently packaged, for parenting “Parents Are Teachers” is a favorite. Adult clients have also benefited from “Feeling Good” and “The Mindful Way Through Depression.” There are a number of outstanding adult OCD workbooks as well.
What one book do you recommend as a “must read” to improve your practice?
I cut it down to three. As far as CBT training, “A Case Formulation Approach to Cognitive-Behavior Therapy” by Jackie Persons is the book I use with my supervisees who treat adults. “OCD in Children and Adolescents: A Cognitive Behavioral Treatment Manual” by John March and Karen Mulle is wonderful for clinicians planning to use ERP to treat children. Personally, I think “The Miracle of Mindfulness” is helpful to read over and over again.
Are you involved in other types of professional activities in addition to your private practice?
I am active in the Bay Area CBT Network, a member of ABCT, and serve on the ABCT Find a Therapist Directory Committee. I am also part of an excellent supervision group led by Jackie Persons. One of the most difficult things about a private practice is being apart from the colleagues and friends I had at university departments and hospital settings. Meeting with a supervision group allows me to recapture this exchange of information and ideas, continuing to learn from an expert and from peers. I am also a part of the local county psychology association.
Next, we are interested in your continuing education activities.
How do you stay current with new research or advances in the field as applied to your practice?
By doing literature searches, keeping up with Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, and sharing new and interesting findings in the supervision group I attend. In addition to informing my practice, I need to keep up with the literature in order to review studies for publication.
Where do you earn your continuing education credits?
I earn most through the Bay Area CBT Network but I also look for CE seminars of interest online. The last one I found was with Jon Kabat-Zinn in Berkeley.
We would also like to know a little about you personally.
Who was your mentor?
My primary mentor was Deborah Beidel and, secondly, her research partner, Samuel Turner. I started as a clinical research assistant in the lab and co-led groups 2 years before starting graduate school with them. When I graduated, I was working in Biological Psychiatry at NIMH and riding the Red Line on the D.C. metro from Bethesda to University of Maryland early on Saturday mornings to run social phobia groups. The mentor relationships continued to develop and I returned for my Ph.D. I am very thankful for the opportunity to have trained with them and I use the skills I learned from my mentors every working day.
How do you avoid burn out?
I try to create spaces that are aesthetically pleasing at home and in the office. I work out and keep up with hobbies. Keeping in touch with loved ones also keeps me feeling refreshed. Most importantly, I try to practice mindful working. Therapy can flow or feel like running in mud depending on numerous factors from caseload to how much energy one has on a given day. When I manage to give up my attachment to feeling or being “perfect” in therapy I think I am a better therapist.
When not practicing CBT, what do you do for fun?
I love to paint, workout, play lacrosse, and bass guitar. I enjoy live music, grabbing coffee with friends, and going into San Francisco for the day is always fun.
Do you have any other “talents?”
I can tear up a harmonica and on the 4th try some paintings turn out o.k.
We are also interested in some of your views of CBT.
What do you think is the single most important thing CBT can do for your clients?
I think CBT allows clients to discover their strengths. Clients come in believing the negative content of their thoughts. They often feel that avoidance is the only way to handle difficult situations. The most important thing CBT can do for my clients is help them change their relationships with their thoughts and alter unhelpful conditioned behaviors.
Where do you see the field of the behavioral therapies going over the next 3-5 years?
I think with the increasing return of veterans, behavior therapies will continue to focus on PTSD, and I am excited about the push to train more VA clinicians in imaginal and in-vivo exposure therapy for PTSD. I also think the neurobehavioral therapies aimed at brain mechanisms currently targeted by medication will continue to be explored. Technological approaches to supporting ‘homework’ assignments could also be amazing ways of increasing therapy homework and medication compliance.
Finally, we would like to know your opinions about ABCT.
How long have you been a member of ABCT?
I think I joined about 10 years ago.
How has ABCT helped you professionally?
ABCT feels like a home base where I can connect with like-minded psychologists. It keeps me informed through Cognitive and Behavioral Practice. Also, I use the Find A Therapist Directory whenever I need a referral in another city. It is an alternative to using the list serve and it provides data immediately.
What services do you consider the most valuable from ABCT?
The journals, directory, and the list serve.
What service(s) are missing from ABCT in your role as a practitioner?
It’s hard to think of something, but I suppose it would be nice to have a full database of online materials to use in therapy.
How do you see the future of ABCT?
I’m not sure, but I hope it continues as a home base for clinicians devoted to a scientific approach to therapy. I think now that I am in my own practice I appreciate ABCT even more because of these values. I think as CBT continues to spread, it will be more important to have a core association that grounds us as we explore new directions.
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.